Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hey, who turned out the lights? Jesus es me luz [The Lord is my light]

Hey, who turned out the lights- an often repeated phrase from a silent library deep in space. If you don't understand the reference I'm making, I'm so, so sorry.

1. one of my favorite gospel themes that yes, I am going to focus on again.
    2. A symbol of understanding of God's plan.
    3. Something you see in the streets when the sun is out. It makes a big difference.
    4. Something they turn off along with the gas (heat) and water when you haven't paid your bills for 11 months. (You mean we were supposed to DO something with all those envelopes coming in?)

So much has happened this week that trying to wrap my brain around it and tell you everything would be nearly impossible. So for the sake of a coherent email, I'll focus on a few key points and highlights.

On Monday morning, during personal study, we lost power. It wasn't the 'too-many-appliances-running-at-once' kind of loss, as we found out at the switch breaker. A quick look at a LOT of unopened bills and a call to the office confirmed that the power wouldn't be coming back on for a while.
Fun songs when you're stuck in the dark:
- Hark all he nations, in Spanish (171) Second verse. "Vivíamos en oscuridad" [We were living in darkness]
- The Lord is my Light (Jesus Es Mi Luz)
- Brillan rayos de clemencia [“Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy”](also our mission song)

So we were grateful for Hermana Ingram's flashlights, bundled up, and waited, keeping in contact with the mission office.  Our light and power were restored on Tuesday night.  Living in darkness complicates things: We had to plan in the hallway to have light for nightly planning. We were limited on the food we could eat, wanting to keep it cold in the fridge. Studying had to be done in places with natural light. Cooking.... Didn't exist.

I'm sure you all see the spiritual parallel I'm going to make here now. Many people nowadays are living in spiritual darkness. It's unnecessarily complicated, often frustrating, and downright unnecessary. But sometimes it's all they can do, waiting for some outside source, some sympathetic soul to pay the bill, flip the switch.

Christ paid the power bill, and we were liberated from spiritual darkness. Missionaries try to help people realize this and turn on the lights in their individual lives.  So I'm grateful, in a different way than I've been before, for the gospel.

Lleida isn't gray anymore!!! Some wizard-of-Oz-worthy winds came and blew the clouds away (we found out that there are tumbleweeds in Spain) and the sun shone brightly several days in a row. But because the mission is a place of contrasts, there were also nights with dense fog. More weather metaphors, we set a baptismal fecha [date or appointment] with a sincere Muslim man who says he feels great peace when he reads the Book of Mormon and received a break-up text/ visit from Evelyn and her girls.  Hearts filled, hearts broken. Agency is tough sometimes. (I've mentioned before that my non-existent dating life didn't prepare me for the mission.... Mission's doing a pretty good job of preparing me for a future dating life...) ;)

The rest of the week was good, complicated by doctors appointments and analyses stuff (a blood test and breath thing for Hermana Ingram.  Apparently "air from my lungs" is medically significant [Dr Who reference]) and lots of fallad citas [failed appointments] but we kept chugging along. We had Stake Conference and Specialized Training (special missionary meeting President comes to) which meant a trip to Zaragoza for all of us. I learned a lot and especially liked the focus on becoming a consecrated missionary, though a lot of it felt like déjà vu and reminded me of my first Specialized Training (complete with flu shots). I wonder if they recycle topics yearly...

Our zone is one of the smallest in the mission, and although most of the Elders are unknown to me, I know and love all of the Hermanas. I saw and was able to talk to Hermana Manotas for the first time since we were companions. So much has happened, so much has changed since then, but that transfer - the trust of training her- changed me. As she stood and tearfully bore her testimony I had the profound impression that perhaps my greatest success as her trainer- perhaps my greatest success of my MISSION- was helping her stay in the field.  I've served in a couple of her old areas (Bilbao and now here in Lleida) and I know of the good she's done and the people's lives she's touched. And it's beautiful.

John 8:12 (again, but it's my favorite)
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

-Hermana Een

Monday, November 16, 2015

Llegué a Lleida

Llegar- to arrive.  In this case, by an early train.
Lleida- a city without metros. We have a castle though, so that's pretty cool. To be honest, I don't know exactly where it is on the map, but I know it's about an hour and a half from Barcelona and that I'm back in Cataluña.
There is a castle on a cloud . . . . 

Castle/cathedral La Seu Vella.

Llegué a Lleida and the sky was gray, a chill had settled... And it stayed that way.
Singin' in the Rain in Lleida 

Yep. The winter I was worried about in Bilbao caught up with me here in Lleida. It's "see-your-breath" cold, "wear-a-blanket-around-your-neck-and-call-it-a-scarf" COLD. But then I remember that there are missionaries in Russia, and I remember that I can't complain.
High School friend Dawn Dimick who is currently serving in Russia, picture posted on fb today.
It was a good week. We met with a family (Evelyn, Ariana, and Laila) the Hermanas here had contacted a few weeks ago, and they are ready to go. The little girl is in Alma (in the picture version, but still. She's nine). There's a lot up and going on here in Lleida, and I'm grateful to be a part of it. But we've also had our share of last nights and citas [appointments] that fell through -ALL of them- for two days straight.  Those are defining moments for missionaries. And after the frustration fades, you get back out there and try again. You play contacting games and talk to EVERYONE. And then you are blessed. On one of those nights, we were looking at a goose-egg day, we hadn't been able to teach a single lesson. But with a prayer warming my heart we went forth and met two Bulgarian women. They've had hard lives and we saw them open up as we testified of the Plan of Salvation and set up another time to visit with them. Moments later we had a similar experience with two sweet Brazilian ladies. I know that even though it was hard to be there, God needed us on the streets that night.

There's a lot of adjustments I'll still need to get used to, but I'm excited to keep working in the  Lord's Vineyard.

I read Jacob 5 this morning (often seen more as a chore than a pleasure) and now as I understand the parable better, I'm able to pull more out of it and specifically pondered on the verse 47
47 But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long, and the end draweth nigh.

We must work diligently, and receive correction along the way. This is his vineyard, and every sprout is precious.

Lleida hosts the Snail Festival in May each year
Looking forward to more miracles, until next week.
Hermana Een

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bilbao Baggage

Bilbo Baggins- a hobbit of no small reputation chosen to fill a vital role in the quest of a lifetime. Though hesitant at first, he embarks on the journey, kindles the spirit of adventure, and does a lot of good. His adventure is something he looks back on much throughout the rest of his long life.

Bilbao- a beautiful city by the river, iconized by the Guggenheim museum, Basque culture, and the  cleanest little city I've ever seen.

Baggage- can be emotional or literal, and with transfer calls, it's usually a little bit of both.
Hermanas Een and Randall
Hermanas Randall, Een, and Wiseman

Fancy church we always saw on the way to our humble little "bajos"

Bilbao Ward
This week was a full one. On Wednesday we had a wonderful and inspired Zone Enfoque [Focus] preceded by an in-depth leadership meeting (while still in a trio with Hermana Wiseman, I might add) in which I was asked to do an emergency intercambio with a companionship of struggling Hermanas before the end of the transfer... in 4 days. With that in mind and weighing on my heart I completed an already planned and regularly scheduled intercambio with Hermana Schmidt (4th one with her, just how things work out, but the first one where we stayed in my area). Thanks to a member, a mini missionary, a willing and competent companion, and the convenient return of Hermana Wiseman to Bilbao that following Friday night (to pick up Hermana Roggiero from the airport) I was able to do that extra intercambio, becoming a trio for a little less than 24 hours and working like crazy to try and see miracles with them.

It was a sacrifice, it was inconvenient, and it meant that for the last week of the transfer the only full day I had with my REAL companion was Sunday, and at times I wondered whether it was worth it.  But after a contact I made one of the Hermanas turned to me and said "Wow. You're so persistent. I wish I could be like you."  So I know it was worth it. And although it was a little last minute, I know we were able to make a positive difference.

On Saturday afternoon we were reunited and taught Manuela the Plan of Salvation. She really GETS it, asks all the right questions, and really wants this for herself and for her family. It's downright inspiring. We let her know that one of us would probably be leaving and promised to call her after we received the transfer call that night. She promised to come to church.

Transfer calls. They happen every six weeks. Usually when I think we'll stay together, we do, but guessing what will happen when something HAS to change.... I'm usually dead wrong.
And well, this was no exception.
When our district leader called that night and told me that I would be leaving to serve in Lleida, I didn't believe him. I had him call back and double check, but there was no mistake.  I called Manuela and a couple of members. It was hard, and continues to be so.
"Mean Mugs" at the Elder's request
 I thought for sure that I would be the one to stay this time, especially after Barcelona. I was frustrated and looking for answers. I found them in a familiar hymn, "I'll go where you want me to go." I realized that I had promised to go. I promised that I would go and keep going until I had been to all the places He needed me to be. And right now, I guess that's Lleida.

I'm still a Sister Training Leader, my new companion's name is Hermana Ingram. She was trained by Hermana Stilson, fun side note.

Coming to Bilbao was for me, like Bilbo Baggins' adventure, an unexpected journey. Looking back, I can see that it has also been a treasured adventure, a great growing experience, and a blessing for me and many others.
Bilbao farewells
Manuela came to church that Sunday (having taken a taxi to get there on time) and happened to be  wearing a bright orange blazer (my favorite color). She loved the services and thanked me for  everything, promising to continue in this path and to nurture the seed that I had helped plant. She's a real special lady.
A Bilbao goodbye hug

It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me.
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.
The front door in Bilbao
 "Faith Brings Hope" (translation)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

525,600 Minutes

525,600 minutes= minutes in a year (according to some song lyrics that I hope are reliable because I don't have time to check the math)

 How do you measure, measure a year?

In transfers? In companions? In intercambios [exchanges]? In cups of Fanta? In contacts? In concilios [leadership meetings]? Or mission-wide meetings? In baptisms? In citas [appointments]?
How you measure a year in the life of a missionary?
How about love?

I had so much that I wanted to say in this email and I don't quite know how to say it all. Just know that hitting the year mark in the mission was a huge milestone and something I'll have to mull over for the next little while. I still have a little more that I want to do, change, and become, and I hope I can.

I spent my year mark on an intercambio in the nearby pueblo of Vitoria (intercambios have been a HUGE part of my mission these last six months, but I'll never forget my first real intercambio with Hermana Boyer back in Valencia. She changed my mission, for the better. I hope I can do the same.)

I read my farewell talk for the first time since giving it. We ate ice cream, lit candles, and read random selections of
my old journals. I also re-read my call letter. I believe that there are certain times in your mission that you have to re-decide to serve.
And I have. Looking back at my farewell I'm surprised at the clarity and surety I showed. I know why I came, I know why I'm here, and I know why I want to finish strong.
Not just to complete another couple of transfers and see more parts of Spain.
Not just to meet new people and make friends (companions),
Not just to switch things up every week on intercambios,
Not just so get fat on Fanta,
Or contact to the letter of the law,
Or get to talk with mission leaders and friends and eat good food in concilio,
Not just to sit through or teach in more meetings,
Not just to get people to baptisms.
Not just to teach and pass a good 45-60 minutes.
But because of love. Because I love this gospel and this work that is an inherit part of it. Because I love God and he has been so good to me. Because I love the other missionaries I serve with and the people
in my areas, past and present.
And although I don't always love them in the moment, I'm grateful for the twists along the way that bring us chances to grow our abilities, our strength, or even just our faith.

I could have said a lot of things about this week, but I want to focus on that.
With a slight call to repentance.
Repentance isn't a bad thing (I've learned on the mission). It just means a change in Christ for the better.
Having been a missionary for a full year now, I'm well familiar with extending commitment invitations. I'm also pretty good at following up. So, if you haven't written me in the past 2,3 or 6 months....
Well, then, ahora es el momento [now is the moment], my friends.
Tell me how you are doing, one great thing you've learned this year.
I promise the blessing of a response. ;)

OK now that that's over with, here's some other potential subject-lines from the week I think you might enjoy.
The life and lice of Hermana Randall - another couple of buggers. And it turns out I still need to learn patience.
The once and future companion - Hermana Wiseman came down for a couple of days because her companion has to leave temporarily. I'm trying not to be too excited. Love that girl.
Hermanas Een and Wiseman

Concilio crack-down - it's amazing how the natural man jumps out and you think "they can't do that! They can't make me do that!" And you are right, they can't enforce it... But if they ask us to, we will.
Because obedience is the first law of heaven, and the one upon which all blessings await.
HallowEEN - we were Frozen again in the most mission appropriate and subtle way... But the little girl who got it made my night.

Subtly Frozen

I'm really loving the New Testament right now, so I think I'll end with a scripture from 1 Thesalonians  2:8.
“So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”
You are all dear unto me.
Lots of love,

Hermana Een